Rewind '99: A 25th Anniversary Retrospective of 702's Single "Where My Girls At"

This Missy Elliott-co-written and produced single skyrocketed to no. 1 in multiple charts while emphasizing the unrivaled ethics of the undisputed girl code.

Let's face it. Girl groups are synonymous with the music industry. Without them, many of the solo acts we adore wouldn't exist. During the 90s music era, duos, trios, quads, and quintets dominated the decade with Rap tracks and R&B ballads. While the music scene was gaining momentum, one group amplified the rhythm and blues movement with a classic track that still has major funk and playing power. In the fourth installment of “Rewind ‘99,” we’re looking back at 702's "Where My Girls At" song on its 25th anniversary.

In the early 90s, before 702 became 702, they were dubbed "Sweeter than Sugar." Comedian Sinbad discovered the group in the lobby of Ceasar's Place in Las Vegas.

"They put on a show. It's like they had been waiting on this moment to be discovered," said the comedian during TV One's "Unsung" season 10 episode of the 702 documentary. Shortly after, they placed third in a singing competition. Following that, they won the attention of New Edition member Michael Bivins, who signed them to his label, Biv 10 Records, and renamed the group after the Las Vegas area code 702.

Rewind '99: A 25th Anniversary Retrospective of Missy Elliott's Single "She's A Bitch"

While under new management with Motown and the success of their 1996 debut album, "No Doubt," the group –which consisted of Meelah Williams, LeMisha Grinstead, and the late Irish Grinstead– dropped their sophomore album, 702, leading with their single "Where My Girls At" on April 27, 1999. The song sold 500,000 copies two months later, securing its Gold status by the RIAA.

The Missy Elliott-produced and co-written track would become the voice of a generation for decades to come.

The nearly three-minute track illuminates dynamics within girl code by mastering sleek melodies and plush chords, all backed by a macro of decrees.

"See, he's my property / And any girl that touch / I might/ just call your bluff / 'Cause I don't give a... / Who are you to call my cell? / Oh, I'ma wish you well / 'Cause any girl that tried has failed, oh," sings Williams in the song's first verse.

As the chorus reverberates, it's clear this song was a mantra for "standing on business" decades before the phrase emerged in pop culture.

"Where my girls at? / From the front to back (Ah) / Well, is you feelin' that? (Oh, no) / Put one hand up / Can you repeat that? / Tryna take my man / See, I don't need that (Yeah) / So, don't play yourself (Play yourself with me)," the trio belts out in the chorus.

Still, Elliott revealed her inspiration for the song wasn't angled in love triangle beef but something more sacred.

“It’s almost like church — when you go to church, pastor is saying something (and you’re) like, ‘I swear up and down that message is for me.’ I wanted to create something women could feel like, ‘I could relate to this record,’” she explained to Billboard.

Still, Williams vouched for the tune's hallmark to go head-to-head if necessary. "On the flip side, it’s about a girl, you know, trynna steal your man, and how we ain’t having that,” Williams said with a chuckle during the episode of “Unsung.”

"Hey, hey, hey, hey / Don't you violate me / 'Cause I'ma make you hate me / If you decide to mess with mineChomp you down to size / And make you realize / You done messed up this time," as cited in the verse two.

While the song proudly serves as the group's signature track, the hit was not offered to them first. That honor went to TLC, but they declined the proposition.

"This song was written for us first," said T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) in 2019 while appearing as a guest with Chili (Rozonda Thomas) on "So You Think You Can Dance."' She continued, "And we didn't do it. We did 'Waterfalls' instead."'

"But I wish we had it," said Chilli.

A year prior, in 2018, Elliott revealed to Billboard what happened.

"Lisa (“Left Eye” Lopes) really wanted it, she really wanted that record, but I guess, if it’s two against one (what can you do?).” So I ended up giving that record to 702, which was cool because they were a group. I knew whoever had it, I wanted it to be going to a group.”

When the song debuted, it meteorically gained acclaim.

"Where My Girls At" soared up the Rhythmic Airplay chart, where it remained #1 for five weeks while spending 42 collective weeks on the chart. It also topped the number one spot on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart. On the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it took residency in the 4th spot. The song climbed higher, ranking #3 on the outlet's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

The single also gained global success.

It reached #5 on the Canadian Digital Song Sales chart while leaping to second place on the UK Hip Hop/R&B chart.

"When you got every chick in the audience saying 'Where My Girls At From the front the back' oh yea, you know you got a hit, a classic," said Elliott on "Unsung."'

The chart-topping song was also nominated for a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award in the Best R&B/Soul Single – Group, Band or Duo category.

The track also crossed genres, ranking #9 on the Pop-Top 20 Singles chart.

At the height of the music video dynasty, "Where My Girls At" underscored their dominance in the music industry.

While the commanding trio struts towards cameras in the opening lines, it's clear these three were destined for stardom. With ballsiness syndicated in solidarity and the essence of sisterly love, these sistas came, saw, and conquered through song.

Toward the end of the Bille Woodruff-directed visual, each group member is seen standing atop giant pillars while performing choreography with their backup dancers, who are decked out in monochromatic red ensembles.

For LeMisha, it was a moment she remembers for personal reasons. “I was 6-months pregnant, so I’m glad they were able to figure out how to cover me up so it wasn’t as noticeable,” she explained on "Unsung."

Since the song's release in 1999, its legacy has lived on while energizing generations.

Throughout Solange Knowles's career, she has often extolled 702 and their extraordinary mark on the music world.

"I mean, it's all relative to each individualized experience, but I know that there's no way to really explain the emotional and physical and mental reaction when you're at a party in seventh grade and a 702 record comes on," the Saint Records founder told NPR in 2014. 

The song also was a bop for the fellas. "I was like all in it," said Donell Jones. "They was dissing us brothas, but it was a hot record," he admitted during the episode of "Unsung."

Nearly three decades later, "Where My Girls At" has truly gone the distance. Even after the tragic death of longtime member Irish in 2023, the group and the song live on.

"I made the joke that one of our girls is in heaven," said LeMisha while discussing Irish's death on the Tamron Hall Show last month.

As "Where My Girls" marks 25 years, its legacy continues to foster sisterhood by bridging generational gaps that traverse beyond music.

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